Monday, January 23, 2012

Hey Newt, Remember Iraq?

Peter Beinart "pens" at The Daily Beast a superb comment on GOP "amnesia" about the Iraq war, and about media's responsibility to hold to account people like Gingrich, Santorum and Romney, all of whom supported the invasion in 2003, and evidently believe even now that it was the right thing to do.  

The extraordinary thing about today’s Iran debate is that being wrong about Iraq has barely undermined the hawks’ influence at all. In 2012, as in 2002, Republicans are driving the political discussion, and in 2012, as in 2002, Democrats are petrified about being seen as too soft. Once again the media, which did not cover itself with glory in the run-up to Iraq, bears part of the blame. To allow Gingrich, Santorum and Romney to saber-rattle on Iran, as they have in debate after debate, without forcing them to confront the consequences of their saber-rattling on Iraq, is professional malpractice. If I were John King—or his equivalent on another network—I’d force Gingrich to answer that question in every foreign-policy segment of every debate. Let’s see Newt demagogue his way out of that one.   


(Beinart also mentions something I hadn't known: in a November debate, Gingrich said that if elected, he'd nominate John Bolton as his secretary of state.  I can imagine few decisions that would be more damaging to US interests - and international respect for those interests (outside Jerusalem, that is) - than nominating this bullying, tactless, hard-Right neocon.)

That these same men can now bang the drum so insistently for military strikes against Iran and receive such lusty support from the GOP rank-and-file speaks volumes about the sad propensity for the American electorate to dismiss the past and move on to fix their collective gaze on the next shiny bauble that cable TV, You-Tube, or (metaphorically speaking) talk radio dangles before their eyes. 

They might not have Iraq to so dangle (not that they care to anymore.  "The troops" are outa there now, so what do we care, right?)  Iraq's government seems to be well along the path toward dissolving, even as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fashions the country into a police state (again) (according to a Human Rights Watch report - but reports of abuses by the Maliki regime have been appearing regularly, for months).  

Thomas Friedman once noted (during the run-up to the 1991 Gulf war) that, before then, the US considered Saddam Hussein a thug, but at least he was "our thug."  Saddam was, of course, no longer in "our" camp as of summer 1990 - and 23 years later (after what future historians - including yours truly in his forthcoming book - will likely term the US's Thirty Years War with Iraq), we invaded his country, got rid of him, and eventually helped install a new Iraqi leader, Nuri al-Maliki, whom George W. Bush sized up and touted as essentially one of "us."

Except now (actually, for a couple of years now), Maliki is likewise becoming a thug: detention, torture, demonization, secret police are all in his playbook.    Yet Mr. Obama not cut the cord, nor will he - especially in an election season when GOP'ers who are already hammering him on his supposed weak-kneed response to the mullahs are also eager to label him as the president who "lost Iraq."

So, Maliki - like Saddam once was - is "our thug."  

And if Iraq continues to boost its oil production, the US won't touch him.

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